A hearty, healthy salad recipe with creamy avocado, nutty quinoa, chicken, fresh cilantro, and lots of bright citrus flavors. The perfect light dinner or easy lunch!
Ladies and gents (do any guys read my blog?), I bring you my new favorite meal. It’s protein packed, bursting with flavor, bright citrus, fresh cilantro, a little spice, a lot of avocado, and some serious staying power.
I made this colorful salad as a light dinner on Monday night and enjoyed leftovers for lunch the next day; it kept me full for hours as I worked in the kitchen. I made two pies, one of these and a special one for Father’s Day. Stay tuned for that sweet summer recipe.
This satisfying bowl of healthy goodness has so much going on. So many flavors and textures; each bite you get a little something different! It’s the perfect recipe for those of us who like the “stuff” in salads, rather than the lettuce. Are you like that too? There’s no lettuce in this salad at all, by the way.
Hearty, super-healthy quinoa is the base for todays salad recipe. I love quinoa because it is impressively versatile. When I’m not adding it to salads, I love making crispy quinoa patties. Just had those for dinner last week – they’re so simple and make a ton of leftovers.
You’ll need about 1.5 cups of cooked quinoa. Quinoa is so simple to prepare. And if you’ve never cooked it before, don’t get nervous. I have a step-by-step post on how to cook quinoa for you. There’s hardly any work involved.
A lot of this salad’s flavor comes from the chicken. You’ll cook the chicken with roasted garlic and a little smoked paprika in some olive oil. If you don’t have smoked paprika, you may use regular or even a pinch of chile powder instead. I highly recommend the smoked paprika for optimum flavor, though.
Don’t know who to roast garlic? Again, don’t get nervous! I have an easy step-by-step post on how to roast garlic. Helpful tip: steer clear from using canned minced garlic here, you want the robust flavor from roasting it fresh.
Cook the cut up chicken breasts until the outsides are toasty and crisp and the centers are moist and tender. Here is what the chicken will look like:
Toss the chicken in with the cooked quinoa, 1 sliced avocado, and 2 sliced oranges. For a little dressing, simply whisk together fresh lime juice, honey, olive oil, fresh cilantro, and a touch of juice from the sliced oranges. That’s it!
So many bright, fresh flavors with none of the artificial stuff.
This recipe made enough for Kevin and I to enjoy for dinner with a side of roasted veggies. Plus, there was enough leftover to enjoy for lunch the next day. I personally loved it cold! By the next day, the flavors were more pronounced as well – the quinoa had the chance to really soak everything up. And the more I stirred it, the creamier the avocado became. (YES.) Since it tastes so wonderful on day 2, it’s a great make-ahead meal option.
This citrus chicken quinoa salad is a wonderful, gluten free choice for your healthy eating this summer… or whenever you’re looking to lighten-up lunch or dinner. Feel free to add a little more quinoa or even try serving this healthy salad over greens.
And if you have extra veggies laying around in your crisper drawer, throw them in!
Now how about some pie for dessert? Balance. 😉
Citrus Chicken Quinoa Salad
A hearty, healthy salad recipe with creamy avocado, nutty quinoa, chicken, fresh cilantro, and lots of bright citrus flavors. The perfect light dinner or easy lunch; makes great leftovers!
- 1 and 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound skinless boneless chicken breast, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cloves garlic or roasted garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large oranges, peeled and segmented
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (packed)1
- 1 Tablespoon fresh orange juice2
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- Cook quinoa according to package directions or use my directions - my recipe will make 2-3 cups, more than what you will use. But leftovers are great! Transfer cooked quinoa to a large bowl and let cool.
- Pour olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and roasted garlic, stirring it all around to coat with oil. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and salt. Stir and cook until chicken is done, about 8 minutes. Add cooked chicken, oranges, and avocado to the quinoa. Stir to combine. Set aside.
- For the dressing: whisk all of the dressing ingredients together. Pour over salad and toss to coat everything evenly. Serve immediately. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
- Make ahead tip: This is a perfect recipe to make ahead of time because the flavors taste amazing by day 2. Simply prepare through step 3, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight.
- If you love cilantro as much as I do feel free to increase to 1/2 cup.
- I simply squeezed the juice out of a couple pieces of the oranges I threw into the salad for the 1 Tablespoon needed in the dressing.
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Try my Crispy Quinoa Patties next!
Healthy, quick, flavorful. Enjoy!